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Exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Les Misérables ahead of visit to Buell Theater and Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Exclusive behind scenes look at Les Misérables ahead of visit to Buell Theater and DCPA
Exclusive behind scenes look at Les Misérables ahead of visit to Buell Theater and DCPA 02:51

"Les Misérables," one of the most popular and loved Broadway musicals, is returning to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in May. 

The show is guaranteed to sell out the Buell many times. Ahead of the production's visit, CBS News Colorado gained exclusive access to the production while it was showing in Chicago, taking our cameras behind the scenes to see how such a renowned performance is made possible every night.  

Behind the stage, winding halls of production rooms are peppered with cast, crew and more. Just an hour before curtain, children could be heard singing while adults stretched and went through makeup. 

In one room Stephen Riegel, the Head Wig Supervisor for Les Mis, meticulously worked on a series of wigs. Each wig, resting on a manikin head, was worked on to be in perfect condition for the actor or actress.  


"Every detail is important," Riegel said.  

The same could be said for any department within the production. Stagehands worked tirelessly to prepare props and more for the production, placing them exactly where they need to be for the cast to easily access them. 

In the last row of the seats, facing the theater stage, a small team of audio technicians tested every single microphone. One audio technician who happened to be from Colorado wiggled the wires on each mic, assuring each one will not have audio glitches during the performance.  

Les Mis is known for having an intricate set design, with many moving pieces, lights and more. Behind the flow of all the action is Jack McLeod, Production Stage Manager for Les Mis. McLeod invited CBS News Colorado's reporter Dillon Thomas to spend an entire show with him both on stage and behind the scenes.  

Les Misérables

"So here we are, it is one hour before showtime here at Les Misérables. The crews came in and did all their prechecks, checking all their details before today's performance to make sure our matinee goes on perfectly," McLeod said.  

As the director, of sorts, for the show, McLeod likely knows the fine details of each performance more than anyone else.  

"Every single performance is different here," McLeod said.  

The actors on stage are what makes each show unique. But, many other aspects of the production are timed out and on a strict schedule, one which McLeod quite literally keeps time on throughout the entire show. 

A timer on his phone helps him not only keep track of the flow of the production, but also assures he calls out orders for the stage staff at the right times.  

Giant walls, known as traveling towers, move from the sides of the stage out into the audience's view with his command, moved robotically and guided into position by grooves hidden in the stage floor. 

Fog machines are placed strategically to add effect during some scenes, while large props are brought down from the ceiling, assembled and then rolled out onto the stage.  

"This 32 by 30-foot square is about to show 30 years of a man's life," McLeod said. "We start the show on a ship and we end the show in the very small room in Jean Valjean's home." 


McLeod also unveiled a largely unknown detail about the stage that assures audiences are given the best show each night.  

"(The stage floor) has speakers built into it so that an individual instrument can be piped right into a speaker so an actor laying on the stage can hear their pitch if they are thrown on the floor," McLeod said.  

The audience roared as the curtain raised, unveiling the iconic scene of a man helping row a boat for their master. CBS News Colorado's Dillon Thomas was standing just off-stage behind a series of lights watching as the production captivated the audience.  

Those closer to the stage are more easily seen by those performing due to the lights. Their facial reactions were a wide range from smiles, to awe to wide-eyed. The opening note of the show quickly captivates the audience's attention. 

Meanwhile, they are unaware of how many moving parts are taking place to the side and back of the stage.  

Directly behind the backdrop of the stage is where all of the costumes are kept. A team of dedicated crew members has each cast member's costumes ironed out in order for their changes. Characters eloquently step off the stage and are quickly swept through a dark walkway to their wardrobe changes. 

The crew helps dress them quickly so they are able to return to the stage either in a different outfit or as a completely different character.  


During songs stage hands build together large pieces of props to mask the sounds of the assembly. McLeod wears a headset and uses switches that pair with lights hidden on the sides of the stage which help time out when props should be moved.  

"It is hard to deny that it is a feat that they pull off every night for every performance," said Christine Heesun Hwang, who portrays Eponine in Les Misérables.  

Victor Hugo wrote Les Mis in 1862. He was widely known for his work as a writer, but many don't know he was also a gifted visual artist as well.  

Richard Barth, Resident Director of Les Mis, is from Colorado. He grew up in Cañon City and calls Loveland home when not on tour.  

"Our set designer has used chalk drawings and paintings of Victor Hugo's in the projections and design," Barth said.  


The cast left Thomas and the audience, in awe as they closed out the performance in unison, all hitting one note as the lights suddenly cut out.  

The roar of the crowd may be physically directed at the cast as they bow moments later, but the response is clearly a reflection of their amazement at the quality of each aspect of the production, most of which was made possible by those who are never seen on stage.  

"This performance on this night in your city is the absolute very best it can be," McLeod said.  

Les Misérables plays at the Buell Theater from May 10 through May 21. The production runs three hours with an intermission. Guests should be at least 12 years old. Tickets can be purchased at 

CBS News Colorado is a proud and longstanding sponsor of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts which helps provide access to the arts to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans every year.  

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